Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga

Reading Seven Fallen Feathers isn’t easy. But as so many readers who have read this tragic Canadian story will acclaim – it’s important. Between 2000 – 2011, seven Indigenous students attending high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario died mysteriously. This eye-opening narrative of their unexplained deaths will stay with you far beyond the 315 pages.

Investigative journalist Tanya Talaga paints a vivid picture of each student, and the haunting details of their last days. Most of the teens came from small, remote communities where adequate schooling for these young adults wasn’t available. Travelling hundreds of miles to the much larger city of Thunder Bay, the students had to adapt to a strange new setting without the support of family.

Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, one teen disappeared into the night, and Robyn Harper died in the hallway of the boarding house she was staying at. Author Talaga demonstrates how these students were failed on too many levels. Not only victims of underfunded schools, inadequate social support – the deaths were all reported as accidental without any further investigation. Even more shocking was that the parents often found out about their child’s disappearance and subsequent deaths via media, not even a call from police or coroner.

Throughout this account, Talaga weaves in threads of history, from the treaties that cover northern Ontario to the residential schools that housed Indigenous children. It is a disturbing yet thought-provoking read.